Press Briefing by Principal Deputy Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre
James S. Brady Press Briefing Room
3:04 P.M. EDT
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: All right, everyone. Happy Friday.
Q Happy Friday. (Laughter.)
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: It’s been a long week. It’s been a long week. Okay, I got a couple toppers for all.
So, President Biden’s economic plan is working. And thanks to his Rescue Plan and our successful vaccine program, America continues to add jobs at a record place — pace: 620,000 a month on average and over 5.6 million jobs created since he took office. Americans are getting back to work.
Because of the success of that effort, our economy has the resilience we need to weather the challenges posed by this virus, more Americans are going back to work, and more Americans feel safe going back to work.
That’s why we added 531,000 jobs in October and the unemployment rate fell to 4.6 percent — the lowest level since the beginning of the pandemic, and a place that the CBO projected, before the Rescue Plan was passed, that we wouldn’t reach until the fourth quarter of 2023.
Unemployment has decreased this year more than any other year in U.S. history. And the number of Americans filing for unemployment each week has declined from nearly 900,000 when President Biden took office to under 270,000 this week.
Because of the decisive action the President took with the Rescue Plan and his efforts to fight the pandemic, our economy has rebounded at a rate unsurpassed in modern history, far outstripping those of our peer countries. And because of that, businesses were able to stay open, schools were able to reopen, and Americans are able to get back to work.
It’s been a busy week making strong progress in our fight against COVID-19, so I also wanted to give an overview of this work — the work that we’ve been doing around the pandemic, in fighting the pandemic.
On Monday, we hit 80 percent of adults with at least one shot and 70 percent of adults fully vaccinated. And we’re still vaccinating hundreds of thousands of Americans every day.
Last Tuesday, CDC’s decision made 28 million kids age 5 through 11 eligible for vaccination. This was a huge sigh of relief for parents and means 95 percent of Americans are now eligible for vaccination.
Since then, you’ve seen kids rolling up their sleeves at pediatrician offices, pharmacies, and children’s hospitals. Many more will this weekend and next weekend — just like my little one. She’s going to be getting her shot on Wednesday. And I thank the team — the awesome team for putting a plan in place to making that happen.
So, thanks to our preparation, we’re already getting children protected from this virus.
And yesterday, we rolled out vaccination requirements that will cover about 100 million American workers — two thirds of workers in the U.S. These requirements have already helped reduce the number of unvaccinated Americans 12 and older by about 40 percent.
A few other key points on yesterday’s announcements:
They are going to save American lives and help our economic recovery. To quote just one outside economist, Yale Professor Larry Samuelson, “Economic recovery requires solving the public health problem. Vaccines are our most powerful tool in bringing the virus under control.”
They boost vaccination rates, on average, by 20 points, often to over 90 percent. More vaccinations means saving American lives and it means avoiding COVID-related absences in the workplace.
And we continue to see companies implement these requirements effectively and with little of the concerns that reporting cites.
Today, Pfizer, with the collaboration of the NIH, showed incredible, promising data for its antiviral pill that treats COVID. This is all subject to pending regulatory reviews, but our understanding is that this is an incredibly promising possible tool in our first against — in our fight against the virus, with vaccinations being the most important tool.
So, let me be clear: The work is not over. We have tens of millions of Americans left to vaccinate, and we remain more than vigilant in this fight against the virus. But what is clear right now is that the President’s plan to accelerate the path out of the pandemic is working. We are saving American lives and helping our economy continue to recover.
And, finally, we have a very short preview of the week ahead for next week.
On Monday, the President will welcome the Milwaukee Bucks to the White House to celebrate the team winning the 2021 NBA championship.
On Thursday, the President will honor America’s military members and veterans at Arlington National Cemetery. He will participate in a Wreath-Laying Ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and deliver remarks the — at the National Veterans — the National Veterans Day Observance at the Memorial Amphitheater.
And, with that, I will give it to you.
Q Thanks. Can you give us an update on who the President has reached out to today in his push to get Build Back Better and BIF to the finish line? He said, when we saw him this morning, that’s what he was going to do in the Oval Office. Any update you can give us?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yeah, like you said, he was pretty clear this morning at the end of his comments on the economy, on the jobs numbers, that he was going to go — go back into the Oval Office and going to continue to — continue to, you know, close this out.
So, the President, as he stated, is in close touch with House members, advocating for yes votes for the Build Back Better Act and the bipartisan infrastructure bill.
Like he said this morning, it’s all about giving the middle class breathing room. And if — and we, you know — we continue to say, “If you’re concerned about costs, that’s one of the best arguments for passing the Build Back Better Act, which will take some of the biggest financial trends that have worked against middle-class families, like high cost of prescription drugs, and be a down payment against inflation by getting more Americans into the workforce.”
So, he’s going to continue to work the phones. He’s going to continue to stay in close touch and stay in lockstep with Speaker Pelosi on — on getting this done.
Everybody — there’s a sense of urgency, as you’ve heard us say, from everyone, from all the members on the Hill, to get this done for the American people. And inaction is not the answer, so we’re going to try and get this done.
Q Is there anyone specifically who he’s talked to today that you can —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I don’t have any calls to preview or to read out at this time, but as — as you can imagine, as he said himself, he’s getting to work and keeping in close touch with the folks on the Hill.
Q House leadership indicated today that it’ll take some time to get the CBO score ready. With that in mind, why is the President urging lawmakers, as he said this morning, to vote yes on both of these bills right now? Why not give these folks some time to — to see what the CBO says and do their jobs?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, as you know, the Build Back Better framework that the President put forth and also the bipartisan infrastructure bill is paid for.
This is something that the President was very clear that he wanted to make sure happened — that as we move forward with these historical investments and as yesterday score from the Joint Committee on Taxation indicated and as shown by the numbers calculated by economists across the administration, which aligns with the JCT’s and the — what I’m talking about is the Treasury blog that came out yesterday that laid out — you all — you saw that reaffirmed by Moody’s analysts.
This bill is fully paid for by asking the wealthy to contribute their fair share and that is exact- — exactly how we’re going to move forward with that and also reduce the deficit.
So, the big thing that we continue to say is: The time is now to take action. As we saw from — from Tuesday, the American public wants us to move. They want us to move forward and actually deliver, and so that’s what we’re trying to do as an administration: deliver for the American public and make sure that this transformative bill really truly moves forward so it can make a difference in people’s lives.
Q Thanks. The — Speaker Pelosi just put out a “Dear Colleague,” saying it is important that they advance both bills today. And you were just referring to the President’s comments, where he’s called for them to vote right now.
Is it the President’s expectation that these — there will be votes today?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Well, so I can’t speak for the mechanism — like I don’t have the schedule — you know, the floor schedule, as you can imagine. But the President has been very clear that he wants these passed; he wants these bills moved forward. You know, if it’s today, that’s wonderful. That’s great. Because, by moving them forward, we are making sure that we’re taking action for the American public.
So, we’re going to, again, work in lockstep with Leader — with Leader — Speaker Pelosi and Leader Schumer to get these done. But, you know, we have confidence in her and in her leadership, and so we — I leave it to them on when this is going to get done.
Q Again, I just want to follow what you’re saying about the cost, because the — Moody’s Analytics says that, you know, as — as the bill is right now, in static terms, it would add modestly to the deficit over 10 years. So, the numbers are different if you account for potential economic growth, like you were referring to, but that’s hard to guarantee.
So, can you give assurances right here that this will be 100 percent paid for when everything is said and done? Because right now, moderates don’t feel like they have those assurances.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yes, we can give assurance that it will be 100 percent paid for. That’s what we have seen for Moody’s, as I mentioned. That’s what we put out — you know, numbers ourselves, the scores ourselves — to show that it’ll be more than paid for, but — to pay for — for the bill.
And so, we are confident. We are keeping that promise: making sure that people who make less than $400,000 do not see any taxes — tax — taxes on them and also just making sure that it doesn’t add to the deficit.
That is the — that is the red line, if you will, that the President had when it came to this — to his economic policies.
Q If I could just ask you one more follow-up really fast. When you — to that point of what the arguments that the moderates are making, you know, they were — they’ve made arguments similar to what — how you started.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yeah.
Q You started by saying that there’s these positive economic numbers, these positive job numbers —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yeah.
Q — and that that might be indication that such a big spending package just isn’t necessary right now. So, what’s your — what’s your answer to that —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So —
Q — that this is — actually plays to what they’re saying?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, two — two parts. What I was saying is that the numbers that — the jobs numbers that we saw today is an improvement. We’re seeing that the economy is moving forward, and the reason why is because of the American Rescue Plan. The reason why is because we’re getting shots into the — in people’s arms. The reason why is that people are feeling more comfortable. They’re going back to work because they’re getting vaccinated. And that American Rescue Plan — that historic bill that the President passed and only Democrats voted for — actually put money in people’s pockets, actually gave a middle-class tax cut to families. That was incredibly important.
So, what we’re trying to do is continue that investment with his economic policy — the Build Back Better Act and the infrastructure bill, which are also transformative, as I just said, and historical.
So, what we know and what we have — what we understand is — and one of the best arguments that — to make for the Build Back Better Act is that 17 Nobel Prize winners in economics, as you’ve heard us say and the President say, agree that it will reduce inflationary pressures, which is so important and so critical right now. The Wall Street analy- — analytics firm, Moody’s, said the same thing again yesterday.
So, Build Back Better is fully paid for and will even reduce the deficit over the long term, as numbers from Moody’s, JCT, which is the — which is what came out yesterday and what our administration put forward in that Treasury blog that I mentioned yesterday.
So that’s what we have, and that’s what we understand.
Q Thank you so much. Democratic Representative Joyce Beatty said today that the House could vote today on Biden’s trillion-dollar infrastructure package but could postpone action on the Build Back Better plan over its cost. And I wondered if you could say if that is acceptable to the President or if he sees it as a betrayal of progressive demands.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, here — here’s what I — I’ll say to that: It’s like I — you know, I’m not going to negotiate or, you know, give — you know, speak to hypotheticals from here.
Our main thing is that we want to see the — both bills done. We are working in lockstep with Speaker Pelosi. And as you know, the President and his team has been talking to members and their staff for the past several weeks; we’re continuing to do that today. And we’re going to get this done. Inaction is not the answer, and we got to move forward and deliver for the American public.
Q On a separate topic: Biden, today, mentioned that his administration had secured millions of doses of the Pfizer COVID-19 pill. Could you give us any detail on how many millions, when the delivery is expected, and how much it’ll cost?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, I don’t — so, as far as the contract — because that would be a contract component — so, like you said, we’re securing millions of doses should the — should this receive — right? — the regulatory approval, as the President said.
So, we have already contracted for millions of doses of the Merck antiviral drug — in development as well. And so, the contract is being finalized. And I would refer you to HHS for more information as it is available.
But what’s important here is that we encourage unvaccinated people to get vaccinated. So we don’t want anyone to get COVID in the first place. So that’s the thing that we want to make sure that people understand — is that we still want you to get vaccinated. This is, yes, wonderful and a great — has promising potential. It still has to go through the process. But people — it’s very important for people to get vaccinated.
Q Thanks, Karine. You noted JCT and Moody’s. Do you guys have a sense, in terms of the Penn Wharton analysis — you know, we’ve heard some Republicans talk about it; I think Senator Manchin has mentioned an iteration of it in the past — but finding that there would be a shortfall in the 10-year window; overall, it would $3.9 trillion? What’s kind of your read on that analysis?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yeah. So — so the biggest problem with Penn Wharton’s report is that they didn’t model the actual bill. And so, for one thing, they incorrectly assume just $1.56 trillion in offsets, when the Build Back Better Agenda is fully paid for with over $2 trillion in offsets that the President outlined in the Build Back Better framework that he put out last week, as you all know.
And as the Joint Committee on Taxation, which is what we’ve been talking about, and our own numbers, which align with each other, confirm, they underestimate — they underestimate — this is Penn Wharton — by $292 billion the combined revenue impact of the corporate minimum tax, stock buybacks, international corporate adjusted gross income surcharge for those making more than $10 million. So, the net-income investment tax and loss limitation compared to JCT scoring.
So, they also don’t include key areas of the Build Back Better that will increase economic growth, like the Child Tax Credit, putting more Americans to work, investing in affordable housing.
So, for example — just to give an example here — when it comes to the Child Tax Credit, the analysis does not consider the benefits that most 450 economists, including 4 Nobel Prize winners, recently highlighted in an open letter. They also assume that unpaid — for extensions of the programs are happening, which is not a reasonable assumption at all and rest on the change — on the — changing the President’s stated position.
So, you know, I’m not sure what they modeled here, but it isn’t what the Build Back Better A- — Build Back Better Act actually is.
Q Okay. And then we — I think you were asked about the President, but in terms of — on the staff side of things, obviously your team put together the budget analysis last night — the preliminary budget analysis last night. Is there anything else you can talk about in terms of what they’ve been doing today to try and mollify some of the concerns of those five or six moderates right now?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I — I don’t have anything specific. You know, these conversations are continuing to happen, and so I don’t want to, you know, get ahead of that. But I can say we’re working very, very closely with members and their staff to make sure that we deliver for the American public.
Again, these are transformational. These are historical. These are going to change the lives of millions of Americans, and we want to get this done.
Q In terms of the message coming out of the election on Tuesday that — there are certainly moderate members who are particularly concerned that if they don’t have things like a CBO score and some reassurances about the fiscal boundaries of the Build Back Better legislation, that they themselves could be in peril when it comes to the midterm elections. What sort of conversations is the President having on that point? Does he understand that kind of concern that they’re applying in how they proceed with this, now that the urgency of getting this done prior to the election that’s just gone by seems to be, you know, eased up a bit?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Well, I can’t speak to — you know, I can’t be a political pundit up here, but I can say that the President was pretty clear, I thought, after — his comments after the election. And he’s — and his primary thought or, kind of, assessment was that we needed to act. He believed that the American public, the voters — basically, they felt that we haven’t moved quickly enough.
And so, you know, we go back to — we laid out our scores through the Treasury’s blog, and we’ve kind of, you know, laid out how this is go- — the revenue is going to be done.
And so, he pretty much feels like we just have to act. We cannot — we cannot not deliver for the American public. And so, it’s not about — it’s not about — you know, it’s basically about getting action, and the time is now to get this done.
And so, that’s how his assessment is. He continues to talk to members, continue to lay out, “Okay, look, you know, this bill, if we get this through, it’s going to help inflation.” Right? That’s a key understanding — component of it as well, is what the Build Back Better Act is going to do.
Q And from what I understand, the plan to vote on the bipartisan infrastructure is at least scheduled for 4:30 this afternoon. Would that affect the President’s plans to leave town? That obviously has already passed the Senate, therefore it would be ready for his signature as soon as it could get here. What’s the impact on all of that?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, I don’t have anything more on his schedule. Clearly, the President wants this to be done as soon as possible. If it’s today, that’s wonderful, that’s better for the American public. I don’t have any announcement to make about his schedule for today.
Q We want to know when he’s going to depart. (Laughter.)
Q Thanks, Karine. So your administration is negotiating cash payments for some illegal immigrants who were separated from family members under the last administration. Why give taxpayer money to people who broke federal law to get here?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: You like this question, Peter.
Q It’s an important question. It’s —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: We talked about — but we talked about this yesterday.
Q But not to the heart of the point, which is that these people broke the law to come here and they are going to get hundreds of thousands —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So —
Q — of dollars in taxpayer money.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: A couple of things: I mean, I cannot speak to this from here. This is Department of Justice.
Q And we asked them, and they said, “No comment.” So we have to ask you.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Well, and I’m telling you that this is in litigation. And so, you have to talk to the Department of Justice about this. This is not something that I can speak from here on the particulars or the specifics.
But, you know, I said this to you yesterday, Peter: One of the things that we have to remember, what — why we’re in this place that — where we are today is because we had an administration that had an inhumane, immoral policy that was taking babies away from their families, from their mothers.
That’s the — that was the policy of the last administration. That is why we are here today. And that’s — you asking me this question — that I actually cannot answer because you got to go to Department of Justice to get the particulars.
But just to be clear: This is — that’s why this is happening today.
Q Okay. So Mitch McConnell and Chuck Grassley have written a letter to the Attorney General. They say that, “Any settlements to illegal aliens because they violated the law are wrong.” Does the President agree with that or disagree with that?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, yesterday, I addressed and I clarified the President’s comments on the thinking on this, because you asked him a question and he answered it directly. But anything about the process, again, anything about the specifics or the particulars, I can’t answer from here, behind this podium. So, you would have to go to the Department of Justice.
Q Then, to internal White House processes: When the ACLU heard the President dismiss the idea of $450,000 payments the other day, the ACLU came out and they said he “may not have been fully briefed about the actions of his very own Justice Department.” So, is the President being kept out of the loop about immigration policymaking?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Again, Peter, the President was asked — you asked him a question — a direct question, and he was answering it. I cannot say any more than that.
Q Okay, final one, then. There is a long line to get into this country legally. Is there any kind of discussion about giving people who are coming here the right way money?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Why would — I — why would we be giving people who are coming here the right way money?
Q Why are you giving people who came here the wrong way money?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I mean, but I don’t understand the question. What is — you’re saying that we should give —
Q You’re giving illegal immigrants —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: — we should give people just money who are coming through? I don’t understand the question.
Q You’re giving people who immigrated here illegally money. You will.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Like I said — like I said, that’s the Department of Justice. That’s — you’re going to have to ask them that question.
Q Okay. We’ll ask again.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Okay.
Q Thanks. So, if it passes, does the White House want Speaker Pelosi to send over the infrastructure bill for the President’s signature immediately, or is it your preference that that waits until the Build Back Better plan gets a vote in the Senate?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, if — if the Build Back Better infrastructure bill passes today, the President is going to sign it. That is the — and he — but he also wants to make sure that we get the Build Back Better Act done as well — the framework that he put together.
So, these — both bills are critically important to him. He wants to move both of them forward as quickly as possible to, again, deliver for the middle-class families, the middle-class Americans.
And if one bill — BIF — Build — Build Back Better — ah (laughs) — when BIF — (laughs) —
Q So if the infrastructure bill is —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: The — all — there’s so many “Bs.”
If the infrastructure bill is passed today, he will sign it. Absolutely. It’s important to get that done for the American public.
Q And would he stay in town to sign it?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I don’t have anything more to share. I know you guys are trying to get that from me. I don’t have anything more to share about his schedule.
And so, like I said, he’s going to continue to work in lockstep with Speaker Pelosi to get this done and work closely with Senator Schumer as well.
Q Has he talked to Speaker Pelosi today?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I don’t have any calls to read out.
Q I know that. But, I mean, you just said they’re working in lockstep. Surely you know if they’ve spoken today.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Well, it’s his staff — our staff and the President as well. I do not have anything to read out to you. But, like I said, we’re working in lockstep to get this done. This is incredibly important to the President, as you all know.
Go ahead, Steven.
Q I want to ask you about some of the changing contours of the Build Back Better reconciliation bill, just in the last couple of days. In addition to putting paid leave back into the bill, Democrats also have added — they’ve raised the limit on the state and local tax deductions. All year, the White House has been saying that that would be too expensive to do. What changed? And why is the White House backing it now?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Well, as you know — as you just stated, that is not something that we, clearly, put into the original bill.
Look, so — but the President understands, from both Speaker Pelosi and Leader Schumer, that for this bill to pass, it needs to address the SALT issue. And because many members of Congress believe the 2017 tax law unfairly targeted their states and localities, including middle-class income Americans, with a $10,000 cap.
So it is a long-term, sustainable reform that doesn’t add at all to the deficit over the decade. And, over that period, it will mean that millionaires and billionaires actually pay more than they would over — otherwise.
The agreement reached in the House of Representatives would raise the cap to $72,500, fully paying for itself across this decade. It’s a sustainable solution that means those with lower incomes would be able to fully write off their state and local taxes while millionaires and billionaires would see their deductions cut back and pay more over time.
This is one part of an overall package, as you can imagine, Steven, that asks more from the highest-income Americans.
Q On a separate matter —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yep.
Q — last night, the White House confirmed that one of the members of the traveling party in Scotland came down with COVID. Can you say whether this person was a — either a commissioned officer, as you’ve said you would disclose, or a senior advisor or someone who is a trusted advisor to the President?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, I’ll say this — just to confirm this so folks know — and I think people know this already: One member of the President’s traveling party tested positive through a lateral flow test on Tuesday for COVID-19. Although additional tests to date have been inconclusive, this individual did not have close contact with the President and is not exhibiting any symptoms. The person has remained in Scotland to complete the quarantine period with the support of the administration.
Q But, just back to my question —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yeah.
Q — is this person either a commissioned officer or a senior advisor to the President?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, let me — let me just give you a little bit of what our protocol is. So, you know, because we want to make sure that we are transparent, we provide updates on any White House official who tests positive for COVID-19 that the White House Medical Unit deems as having had close contact with the President, Vice President, First Lady, and Second Gent- — Second Gentlemen. So that could include the individual’s name if they consent to share it.
So the criteria for who is in close contact with the President is determined that — by the White House Medical Unit, and it’s in line with CDC guidance.
Q So, just to nail it down, is the White House no longer sticking by its pledge to name commissioned officers?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Well, I just laid out what our — it is close contact — whoever is considered by the White House Medical Unit to have close contact with one of the four — with one of the four principals — for either of the principals. That is —
Q No longer commissioned officers?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Well, I just — I just read to you what our protocol is.
Q So they weren’t in close contact?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Exactly. Thank you. They were not in close contact.
We are — we’re just being transparent here because, you know — because, you know, they did stay back. And so, we just want to — and we have been asked this question, so we’re — we’re making sure that we’re giving the answer.
Q Thank you. I just wanted to — I know you’ve been talking about the President is — both of these bills are very important to the President, he’s pushing on this. I guess I just wonder, at this point, what is the leverage that the President has.
Say, for instance — and I know there are a lot of contours, a lot of things are changing right now. But if you — if the infrastructure bill does pass today, and then moderates decide they do not want to do the larger spending bill on climate and childcare and all of those things: What can the President do to make sure that the second — the larger bill gets passed?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yeah, but I — I would say this: The President has been in contact with, you know, moderates and progressives — with, you know, the big-tent party that we have. And they’ve been in and out of here, out of the Oval Office, out of the White House. The White Hou- — my colleagues, the White House — his White House staff has been meeting with them regularly.
And so, I would say — you know, I’m not going to really get into a hypothetical, but we’ve been in close contact with all of them.
The reason why the President put forth the Build Back Better framework, which was about a week ago, is because he — what he heard, right? — what he heard from both sides, and wanted to make sure he put forward something that he believed was going to get passed, that is going to get the 50 — the 50 votes from the Senate.
So we’re just moving forward with where we are. We put — he put together the framework. Yes, paid leave is being discussed and being put — is put back in, which is something that is very personal to him.
Making sure that people can afford pharmaceutical drugs, right? Being able to not have to pay their whole entire paycheck on getting, you know, pharmacy drugs is important as well. So that — we see that’s in there.
So all of these things are so important to the American public. And so that is the main thing.
So — and the other thing, too, to think about is that Democrats agree; they’re all on the same page. They all understand that we have to move forward with the President’s economic policies.
What we’re talking about is different components and what that looks like. And so, now the Speaker is working very closely with her members and her leadership to get this done.
And so we’re going to continue having those conversations and making sure that we get this voted on.
Q Would the President be okay withholding votes on both bills until after the CBO has scored Build Back Better?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Well, I already answered that, right? We put — we put our scores out yesterday. And we’ve been pretty transparent on that component.
The President believes that we have to take action. If anything, that — he has said himself — that we saw from earlier this week, voters want us — and the American public, I should say, want us to take action. And so, we have to deliver for the tens of millions of Americans who have been left behind where the economy hasn’t worked for them.
And so, that’s what the President has been very clear about. He wants to get this done as soon as possible. If it’s today — he’s working for today. If it’s today, that’s wonderful, but we want to get this done. That is the President’s main priority.
Q Thank you. Well, a quick follow-up on that, actually, just —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yeah.
Q You were saying that the President has been speaking to progressives and moderates in recent days —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yeah, the last co- — that’s the last couple of weeks we’ve seen that.
Q Just hoping you could provide some clarity on — even if we can’t name which members he’s been speaking to — just what his message is at this point. Is it as simple as, “Vote yes on these today”? Or is it pointing to the scores that you put out last night? Just a little bit of clarity on what he’s saying.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Well, I mean, I’ll just share with you what he said this morning, which I think had a lot of clarity and was sp- — spoke specifically on where — on what he’s thinking: Like the Build Back Better framework lowers your bills for healthcare, childcare, prescription drugs, and preschool, and families get a tax cut. That is the message. That is what we’re trying to do. That is what we’re trying to deliver for the American public.
And also, it fights inflation. Right? If we get this done, it will help — it’ll help deal with the inflation — that we’re seeing with inflation.
So, the President has been very clear on this. This is about the American public. This is about helping the middle class — helping them “get a fair shot,” as the President says — make sure they’re not left behind. And so, that’s the message.
And here’s the thing: Democrats on the Hill, they understand that. They understand that we have to move forward with an econo- — with an economy that works for all.
What we’re trying to figure out and what you have seen is just working out — working through the components. And right now, Speaker Pelosi and her leadership is working to getting a vote on Build Back Better and moving forward with BIF.
Q If — moving forward, if we see the agenda pass — advance today or in the days to come — just what’s the White House strategy going to be like to actually sell this and make it an electoral winner? Right? Because for many American people, they associate these packages as these sprawling legisla- — this sprawling legislation that’s been locked in congressional gridlock, but they may not actually see the exact benefits. It may take a while for them to see direct benefits as well.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Well, I — yeah.
Q So can we see officials —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So —
Q — go out, doing trips? And what will they be talking about?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Absolutely. Clearly, we want to — we want to get this to a place where we get it passed so we can talk about the next steps after that happens.
But I would — I also would say to you, Zolan, that there are components of this bill that’s very popular. You know, we’ve seen that in the polling. There are things in this bill that the American public love and understand and need.
And if you think about the American Rescue Plan — right? — you think about the Child Tax Credit, which the American public is already feeling — right? If you are a family — 9 out of 10 families with kids are going to get a middle tax cut. And that’s important.
And so, that is something in this BBB framework — this Build Back Better framework that we’re trying to continue — to extend the Child Tax Credit — which again, people are feeling right now. They’re able to have those extra dollars so that they can, you know, buy supplies for their kids, so that they can make sure that they go to that doctor’s appointment for their kids. And it also has cut poverty in — amongst children by 50 percent. So, they are seeing some of the — some of the factors that we saw from the American Rescue Plan.
So, now we’re trying to move it forward and with these other historical components that is in the bill to get that across the finish line so we can really see that transformational change for the American family.
Q Karine, you mentioned preschool.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead.
Q Why are faith-based childcare centers not eligible —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead. Oh, go ahead.
Q Thanks, Karine —
Q I’m asking a legitimate question here. Why are —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead. Go ahead.
Q Thanks, Karine. As —
Q — faith-based childcare centers not eligible for Build Back Better money to make renovations —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead.
Q — to their facilities?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Just go ahead. Ask your question.
Q It’s a basic question. I — I have a badge on. I can ask questions, right?
Q As expected, a number of states have filed —
Q I’m allowed to ask questions?
Q — suit against the administration over this vaccine requirement for workers at large companies. I’d like to get your response to that. And also, how confident are you that this mandate can withstand these challenges?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, we are very confident that it can.
Just a couple of things that I wanted to just lay out so that people understand. As for the legal side of this, let me be crystal clear to avoid what appears to be possible misinformation or disinformation around the emergency temporary standard being a vaccine mandate: That would be, on its face, incorrect. As has been explicit for months, it is a standard for a safe workplace to either comply with weekly testing or to be vaccinated.
And second, as outlined, the Department of Labor has a responsibility to keep workers safe and the legal authority to do so. To quote from last night’s call on this: “The new emergency temporary standard is well within OSHA’s authority under the law and consistent with OSHA requirements to protect workers from health and safety hazards, including infectious disease… OSHA has broad authority to issue and enforce health and safety standards to protect workers in staying safe and healthy” in their jobs.
So, this is something that we believe that we have authority to do — that the Department of Labor does. So, this is a power because this is a power that Congress empowered OSHA with through a law that has been on the books for more than 50 years.
And to reiterate, we focus on accelerating our path out of this pandemic and saving lives and why others are not in — and wanting to do that is a question for them.
So, we believe we have the authority to do this — the Department of Labor. And again, this is about saving people’s lives. This is what this is about. And making sure that their workplace is safe.
Q Again, back — on Build Back Better —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead.
Q On oil prices —
Q — why are faith-based childcare centers not eligible for Build Back Better —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead.
Q — money to make renovations?
Q Just have one on oil prices, Karine.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yeah, for sure.
Q The President, when he was overseas, suggested that he may be looking at different options if OPEC Plus is not willing to increase the supply. Is the President considering tapping the Strategic Petroleum Reserve? Is there a timetable for making a decision on that?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, I don’t have an announcement at this time. As you can imagine, we’re go- — we’re trying to — we’re going to use every tool at our toolbelt — in our toolbelts to get — to do what we can, assessing and monitoring the situation on the oil process very, very closely every day. I just don’t have additional actions on this.
Q And then he met yesterday with Fed Chairman Powell and also a Fed governor, Brainard. What is his timetable for making a decision on some of the vacancies on the Federal Reserve? I mean, he said, you know, it could be very soon. Is he looking at a decision next week?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, just to be clear, I’m not going to confirm any meetings — internal meetings that the President may have had or may not — may have not had. As the President said this week, he expects to make a decision. He said this just the other day on Tuesday when he was in Scotland during his press conference. I don’t have anything to confirm beyond that.
Q Okay, thanks. Two questions for you. First of all, the climate change. And he’s using the word, now, “adaptability.” And I want to go back to that and drill down on that just a bit because what this administration seems to be saying is that the life that your children are going to lead and my grandchildren are to lead are going to be substantially different than what you and I have seen, as far as climate on the planet.
Is he concerned that it — with the — that we’re not going to be able to at all mitigate the climate change, that we’re going to — that for the species to survive, we’re going to have to adapt? Or does he mean policy adaptation?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Well, I think, in general, the President wants to do everything that we can to fight climate change and wants to be a leader not just here — right? — as President of the United States, but globally. And I think that’s what you’ve seen from the President since day one.
He said, when he walked into the administration, that climate is one of the crises that he has — that we all have to deal with as a country. And so, this is what he’s going to — he’s focusing on.
We just went to COP26 and talked through a bunch of — a bunch of ways that we can deal with — to fighting climate. You — when you think about the Build Back Better plan, when you think about the bipartisan infrastructure, there’s close to — there’s more than $9 billion in both to work in a historical way to fight climate.
Q But —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So that’s what the President is focusing on and that’s what he wants to do. He wants to make sure that we actually deal with this issue that’s in front of us.
Q That I understand.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yeah.
Q And I do have a follow-up.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yep.
Q But there — that I understand, but are you saying that we are the — the crisis is for the survivability of the species? Or are you saying that —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I mean, I —
Q — “adaptability” is about — about your — how you attack the problem?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yeah, I — look, I — all I can speak to you right now is how to attack the problem, which is what I laid out, and how we can be leaders in this and making sure that we really do everything that we can — right? — not just here in the United States, but globally to fight climate change.
And so, that’s the focus of the President, and that’s what we’re trying to do to get this done. And Build Back Better — the Build Back Better Act and the Bipartisan Infrastructure plan — framework will get that done — will get us closer to getting that done.
Q Thanks. And then the follow-up on — you were talking about — you’ve had a number of people that are celebrities with millions of followers who — followers who have come out speaking against vaccines.
And then the latest, we’ve seen that the MVP of the NFL finally admitted that he lied and he never got vaccinated, and that he considers it a “woke” crowd that speaks about and to vaccinations.
Has this administration ever thought of reaching out to some of those people who have that type of influence to talk to them about getting vaccinated? Or is it simply what you all are saying off the top? Have you worked with people individually?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, you’ve seen us. You — you’ve seen influencers come through the White House to talk about the importance of getting vaccinated and using their platforms — right? — to talk to their followers. And that is something that we have worked really closely with influencers — with people who have, you know, access to millions and millions of followers. And we continue to do that.
We have an amazing digital team that continues to do that work, and you’ve even seen the President partner up with some folks in that space. And so, we’ll continue to do that.
But what I will —
Q Is it a concern?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Well, here’s what I want to say — I want to say is that in this 18 months of the pandemic, we’ve — we’ve lost more than 740,000 lives to COVID-19. And we are now in a position where — when the President first walked into the administration, he made sure that he put together a comprehensive vaccination program. And now — I just laid that out earlier — 80 percent of the [adult] American public have at least one shot.
And we just — I just also laid out the jobs numbers. One of the reasons why the jobs numbers are where they are today — where we are actually, you know, making progress with the economy — is, one, because people are getting vaccinated. So that is so clearly important.
And also the American Rescue Plan that he put forth to be able to put people — put some money in people’s pockets and really give people a middle class — of — in the middle class a tax cut.
So, those are things that are really incredibly important. And so, the only way that we’re going to get this pandemic behind us and move past it is if we continue to get people vaccinated. So that’s incredibly important. And that is our message.
And also we understand and we have seen vaccination requirements work, and they have been successful. And so that’s what we’re going to continue to do and work — and work closely with states and businesses to continue to get people vaccinated.
Q Are you worried about your messaging?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: No, I mean, I just laid out that — you know, I could go back to it —
Q Yeah, I heard you.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: — about how I gave an update of this week on how — you know, how we’re doing and the state of the pandemic. Here we go: We hit 80 percent of adults with at least one shot and 70 percent of adults fully vaccinated. We just — the CDC decision made 28 million kids age 5 through 11 eligible for vaccinations. So, all of these things are incredibly important.
And if you look at the vaccination requirement, it will cover 100 million American workers. That’s how we’re going to get to the other side of this. That’s how we’re going to move forward to make sure that we put the pandemic behind us.
And that’s our message: Vaccination — vaccine requirements work. And also they — getting a vaccine is safe. It’s easy — it’s easy to do. You can get it at your pharmacy. You can get it at your doctor’s office. It’s free. And so, we encourage people to get that.
It will — you know, it will — you know, it will protect you. It will get you in a place where you feel comfortable to get back to work. That’s what we’re seeing in these jobs numbers.
Q Karine, can I follow up on that?
Q Karine, can I ask you a question on Ethiopia?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Who else here? Go ahead.
Q Can I ask you a question on Ethiopia? Ethiopia is on the brink of a civil war.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Excuse me. Go ahead.
Q No, but I’m asking you a question.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I understand.
Q You take questions from the same people.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead. Go ahead. Go ahead.
Q Isn’t it better to allow — for democracy, to allow more reporters to ask questions?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead. Eugene asked a question.
Q Fellas, let’s maintain decorum in the room, please.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I am. I haven’t taken a —
Eugene. Go ahead, Eugene. Go ahead.
Q Thank you. On to what you were talking about COVID —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yeah.
Q There was a lot of talk at the beginning of the administration and during the pandemic about herd immunity, for example — like what numbers we could hit before people really started to get back to normal and got through the pandemic.
So, I’m curious what the scientists are telling you guys about what is the percentage of — I think you said 70 percent of — that are fully vaccinated, 80 [percent] that have at least one shot. So, what’s the percentage we need to get to? What’s the number we need to get to of Americans vaccinated before we do get through the pandemic?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I mean — you know, Eugene, I understand your question, and I get it. I get wanting to get a sense of the herd immunity. But that’s not our focus right now. Our focus is to make sure that we do everything that we can to get people vaccinated.
Our focus is to make sure — like now we have 5 to 11 — young kids from 5 to 11 who can now get vaccinated, which is incredibly important. And parents — you know, working with parents to make that happen. I think that’s very important. Having these vaccine requirements — that’s incredibly important.
I just mentioned 100 million workers will now be able — that’s what that requirement is going to touch: 100 million workers.
We know that getting people vaccinated will, you know, help the economy, make people feel safer. We saw — we’re seeing this right now with the jobs numbers that we just saw today and — which is incredibly important and critical — 620,000 a month on average and over 5.6 million jobs created since he took office. And that’s — a lot is because of the President’s leadership. It’s — a lot is because of the American Rescue Plan and getting those shots in arms.
So, 531,000 jobs in October, and the unemployment rate fell to 4.6 percent. So, in order to get back or getting this — getting this economy going again, this is what we need to do.
So, that’s our — that’s our focus. That’s why we’ve made it available in a way that it’s free, so that people can get it, you know, five miles away from their home in majority — in the majority of places across the country. And we’re going to just, kind of, continue to have those conversations.
Q I have a question on Ethiopia.
Q And back to the selling of the Build Back Better and the BIF, and whatever the — (laughs) — the letters are —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: (Laughs.) I know. Build Back Better Act and Bipartisan Infrastructure. Yep. I know. I know.
They’re both great.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: We’re trying to get them moving for the American public.
Q The acronyms are hard. But the — when you guys talk about — think about selling it — we saw, though, with the Child Tax Credit. We did a poll, and just 38 percent of people gave President credit for the CTC, and only 47 percent gave Democrats credit for the CTC.
So, what do you guys — how are you guys envisioning that you’re actually going to sell this in a way that people say, “Democrats gave this to us; President Biden gave this to us.”
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, I think you’re — you’re right. Like, we have to go out there and talk about these bills, right? And the thing is, the President has done that, right? You — he’s traveled across — across the country and talked about his Build Back Better Agenda. He’s talked about the infrastructure bill. We’ve — we’ve seen Cabinet Secretaries do the same. We’ve heard from White House officials here — my colleagues — do the same.
And we’re just going to have to continue to have those conversations. And I think once we get those two pieces of legislation to the — across the finish line, and we’ll — you know, we’ll have — we’ll do — you know, we’ll get out there, do a blitz, and make sure that that messaging is out there on what we have done and how we’ve delivered for the American — for the American people.
And so, that’s really important. But the focus right now is we got to make sure we get this out of Congress and continue to work with members on the Hill to make sure that we deliver, again, this transformational and historical piece of — two pieces of legislation so that we can actually change and invest in peop- — in the Americans’ lives.
Q Thanks, Karine. And I know we have an out —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Okay.
Q — but can you answer maybe one more?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Okay, one more. JJ, did I take one from you?
Q Not yet.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Okay, go ahead.
Q Could you explain when the policy on revealing the White House commissioned officers who have COVID — when did that change? Because on July 20th, Jen Psaki specifically said she would reveal the names of all commissioned officers, all the senior staff who have COVID; she would be — she would err on the side of being transparent and reveal it.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I mean, look, like I —
Q So, when was that caveat added that they had to be in close contact?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I’m just telling you what our policy is. And I’m happy to read it over to you again. You know, our commitment, again, is for transparency. So we provide updates on White House officials who test positive for COVID-19 that the White House Medical Unit deems as having had close contact with President — with the President, the Vice President, First Lady, or Second Gentleman.
That could include the individual’s name if they consent to share it, so they have the consent to share it — to share that. And the criteria for who is in close contact with the President is determined by the White House Medical Unit, and it is in line with the CDC guidance.
That is our policy. That’s what I just read to you. I don’t have anything more beyond that.
Q So, unclear of when that policy changed from just being more transparent to —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: J- — I just read you what our policy is, and that’s what I have to share.
Q Thank you.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yeah, okay.
Thank you, everybody.
3:51 P.M. EDT